How to get a solid impact in your shots

Published 20/12/2010 07:37:00

Instructors rightfully term impact "the moment of truth" because if a golfer is perfect at impact, then he or she will hit a lot of near-perfect golf shots. Over the years, there have been countless articles on the impact position, each written in its own unique way to describe the fleeting moment of ball/clubface contact. Because of impact's fleeting nature, most of these articles have focused on the fundamentals prior to contact, stating if a golfer's stance, ball position, backswing, transition and downswing are sound, impact will take care of itself.


In my opinion, this is a wonderful philosophy that unfortunately works for very few people. Impact doesn't simply "happen." For one, our bodies aren't naturally shaped to easily allow the stretching, torqueing and contorting demands of impact. We have to train our bodies and achieve certain levels of flexibility and strength in order to realize perfection through the hitting zone.


My primary problem with the belief that solid pre-impact fundamentals lead to a solid impact position is that a golfer's natural tendency is to swing across the ball (from outside the target line to the inside), even from a picture-perfect top position. Of course, solid pre-impact fundamentals will make it that much easier to contact the ball correctly. Nevertheless, as a golfer swings from the top through the hitting zone, there are certain physical demands every golfer must meet in order to be dead-solid perfect at the moment of truth.


Points To Consider At Impact

First and foremost, the entire body, with the exception of the head, should have moved toward the left side (for a right-handed golfer). This includes the hips, shoulders, legs, arms and hands. This target-forward move is necessary to develop sufficient clubhead speed and maintain the proper swingpath.


Second, the hips should be well open to the target, with a good 70 percent of the body weight shifted onto the left leg and hip. As it receives the weight, the left leg should straighten a bit, but refrain from locking at the knee. Third, the shoulders should mimic the position they held at address, with the left shoulder a tad higher than where it was positioned at the start of the swing. As far as your feet are concerned, it's ideal for the right heel to rise off the ground and the left to be firmly planted on the turf. If your left foot rolls or, worse yet, lifts in any fashion whatsoever, you'll lose the balance and foundation necessary to support the weight shift to the front leg.



While the body positions described above are crucial for solid impact, they'll help very little if you don't contact the ball at the correct angle. If you study the swings of great players, you'll invariably discover that the hands and arms are well forward of the clubhead at the point of contact, effectively decreasing the loft of the club. In addition to consistent practice, good players master this position because they study and practice the perfect impact posture.


In teaching my students the correct posture at impact, I have them swing with their backs to a wall (or the back of a chair). At address, the tailbone should rest slightly against the wall or chair. The key is to maintain this contact through the impact position. The tendency for most amateurs is to push the hips forward toward the ball on the downswing. This creates a lack of room for the arms, hands and clubhead to achieve their proper positions through the hitting zone. It's like trying to swing at an inside pitch when you're crowding the plate.


Impact Practice

With a 6-iron in hand, assume your address position in front of a full-length mirror. Using the guidelines presented above, move to a good impact position without taking the club back. Check your weight shift to the target foot and the rotation of your hips to an open position. Are your shoulders in the same position they held at address? Are your hands and arms forward? As you stand monitoring your positions, focus on the feel of your shoulders lying parallel to the target line and your hips open. It's this contorted separation that most amateurs fail to achieve at impact.


Next, stand sideways to the mirror and again check your positions. Note that the left leg is taller and the hips have cleared the way for your arms, hands and clubhead to approach the ball without restraint. Now, analyze your posture. Remember the wall drill? Make sure your tailbone is still "connected."


Now, make several tiny backswings, each time returning to and holding your position at impact. Again, scrutinize your body positions and verify that they match the requirements discussed thus far. Repeat again and again until you can move your body into a sound impact position easily. As you make these tiny swings, you should begin to feel the sensation of the clubhead approaching the ball from inside the target line. Gradually increase your backswing yet maintain your focus on achieving the key impact positions.


Before you begin to hit full shots with your newfound impact feelings, try this drill. Practice hitting a few teed balls with your 6-iron, starting from the impact position. As you take the club back over the ball, keep your legs, shoulders and hips in their impact positions. You'll feel extremely restricted, of course, but stick with it. Your shots should travel no more than 50 yards. If you're happy with your ballflight, move on to half-swings from a normal address position. With these balls, look for your shots to start slightly right of the target and curl back. After awhile, move on to three-quarter and finally full swings. Take time between every few swings to analyze your position at impact. Most of my students want to start striping shots at this point, but don't succumb to that just yet. Old habits die hard and will jump up and bite you if you go back to your old ways.


Maintaining the moment of truth

If you perform your impact training correctly, you'll eventually notice a tremendous improvement in your ballflight. Specifically, your shots will exhibit a little right-to-left draw. If so, then you're making serious progress. The key is to maintain it. Perform the impact drills discussed above at least weekly. And, as I've stressed with all of the key golf positions, incorporate strength training and flexibility training into your regular fitness and practice regimens.


1.  Thanks for the advice. This is the most practical advice I have seen so far on how to achieve gradual, planned improvements. I hit a ball that curves a little right to left but starts left of target. Struggling to start the ball right of target. I particularly like the advice of hips cleared but shoulders aimed at target. I look forward to practising this next time out. Thanks again

comment by stephen Moulds - 08/03/2011 19:44

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